Three Weeks

It was an emotionally draining day at work today.

We provide support to patients and their families at a local hospital, and a case worker came to our office looking for activities for a patient in his early twenties and his parents to do over the weekend. Normally, that’s a common request. However, the case worker explained that the patient had only a few weeks left on this planet, and the doctor was urging him and his parents to get out of the hospital and do something—anything—with their remaining time together.

I was crushed.

I’m pretty good about compartmentalizing patient stories and not letting them affect me too much. Not this time. It hit too close to home, at least conceptually. Of course, the young age of the patient added to my reaction as well.

If your doctor told you to go out and make the most of your last three weeks on Earth, what would you do?

Talk about a reality check on your own mortality.

5 thoughts on “Three Weeks

  1. lufboro

    I often doubt the wisdom of predictions like this… only several weeks to live. Maybe it is a patient’s right to have a physicians best guess…. so long as everyone knows it is only a guess.

    But we do tend to feel an obligation to be honest today.. Maybe that is just more evidence of the pathological detachment that characterizes our hyper connectivity in an e.age… where the most disgusting or cruel or thoughtless comments can be— and are– made safely from a distance.

    Regarding such predictions, I prefer a less definite guess, say 6 months, as in hospice, when possible provided at home. That gives everyone the possibility of closure. Not that it is easy… to watch death come is often ugly, or disgustingly gross.

    My mother died at home. Her family and caregivers communicated through entries in 8 1/2 x 11 spiral notebooks, over a four year period. After she died I collected them and wrote a book- about her long slow dying… based on the notebooks, it was given from the standpoint of caregivers, friends and family, based on the notebook entries. The book is The Melba Notebooks, It’s on Amazon. It is not about my mother alone, but my dad, crusty difficult man, their children, daughters. It is not as polished as I would like, but, as they say, ‘it is what it is.’ until I get around to a second edition.

    These passages that we go through in life are, I believe, transformational for everyone who cares. Though they are about death, they enrich our living..


    1. Hi Lufboro,

      Thanks for your insights and your story about your experience with your mom. I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback by the doctor’s prognosis for this young man and, like you, I’m not keen on those sorts of predictions. Even so, I’m a realist and I wouldn’t want my own prognosis to be sugar-coated when the time comes.

      Both of my parents are gone. Dad went to bed one night and never woke in the morning. He was 69. Definitely no opportunity for closure there. But my mother went into hospice and there was that opportunity, which we took full advantage of.

      I had been in an emotional funk the better part of the week and this just hit really hard. I’ll recover and move forward living my own life.


  2. If the person actually can have some quality time which is probably not common at that stage of their condition (you didn’t say what it is) but we know that being happy is good for our immune system and if the consequence is someone enjoying their last days and maybe having more of them has got to be worthwhile. As a cancer patient we tend to internalise other people’s conditions, because we have a bit of an idea of what they are going through, despite our individual differences. Hopefully doing things that make us happy also help us survive longer and even want to!


    1. Hi Luigi,

      Thanks for your comment. We weren’t told of the specific conditions affecting any of the patients that we support, just that they need our help.

      Perhaps the reason that it hit me so hard is just 24 hours earlier, I had had a heart-to-heart conversation with a coworker about my own status and what’s in store for me. It was fresh, and to have this thrown on top of it all was a bit much.

      Your advice to focus on what makes us happy is something we all should take to heart.


  3. I have actually thought about this. In the end game I believe all I will want to do is stay at home talking with my wife and petting my dogs. It would be nice if she held my hand, which I’m sure she will do. I have no need to notch another experience. We went on a travel bender after I was first diagnosed. To date we’ve been to over two dozen countries. I’ve seen enough church’s and castles for two lifetimes.

    If I were young and hadn’t had the benefit of all the travel, I’d probably want to go to the San Diego Zoo. I love animals, and it’s such an incredible zoo.

    Liked by 1 person

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